'What's the fun?' said a rather tall, thin, young man, in a green coat, emerging suddenly from the coach-yard.
'informers!' shouted the crowd again.
'We are not,' roared Mr. Pickwick, in a tone which, to any dispassionate listener, carried conviction with it. 'Ain't you, though--ain't you?' said the young man, appealing to Mr. Pickwick, and making his way through the crowd by the infallible process of elbowing the countenances of its component members.
That learned man in a few hurried words explained the real state of the case.
'Come along, then,' said he of the green coat, lugging Mr. Pickwick after him by main force, and talking the whole way. Here, No. 924, take your fare, and take yourself off--respectable gentleman--know him well--none of your nonsense--this way, sir--where's your friends?--all a mistake, I see--never mind-- accidents will happen--best regulated families--never say die-- down upon your luck--Pull him UP--Put that in his pipe--like the flavour--damned rascals.' And with a lengthened string of similar broken sentences, delivered with extraordinary volubility, the stranger led the way to the traveller's waiting-room, whither he was closely followed by Mr. Pickwick and his disciples.
'Here, waiter!' shouted the stranger, ringing the bell with tremendous violence, 'glasses round--brandy-and-water, hot and strong, and sweet, and plenty,--eye damaged, Sir? Waiter! raw beef-steak for the gentleman's eye--nothing like raw beef-steak for a bruise, sir; cold lamp-post very good, but lamp-post inconvenient--damned odd standing in the open street half an hour, with your eye against a lamp-post--eh,--very good-- ha! ha!' And the stranger, without stopping to take breath, swallowed at a draught full half a pint of the reeking brandy-and- water, and flung himself into a chair with as much ease as if nothing uncommon had occurred.
While his three companions were busily engaged in proffering their thanks to their new acquaintance, Mr. Pickwick had leisure to examine his costume and appearance.
He was about the middle height, but the thinness of his body, and the length of his legs, gave him the appearance of being much taller. The green coat had been a smart dress garment in the days of swallow-tails, but had evidently in those times adorned a much shorter man than the stranger, for the soiled and faded sleeves scarcely reached to his wrists. It was buttoned closely up to his chin, at the imminent hazard of splitting the back; and an old stock, without a vestige of shirt collar, ornamented his neck. His scanty black trousers displayed here and there those shiny patches which bespeak long service, and were strapped very tightly over a pair of patched and mended shoes, as if to conceal the dirty white stockings, which were nevertheless distinctly visible. His long, black hair escaped in negligent waves from beneath each side of his old pinched-up hat; and glimpses of his bare wrists might be observed between the tops of his gloves and the cuffs of his coat sleeves. His face was thin and haggard; but an indescribable air of jaunty impudence and perfect self- possession pervaded the whole man.
Such was the individual on whom Mr. Pickwick gazed through his spectacles (which he had fortunately recovered), and to whom he proceeded, when his friends had exhausted themselves, to return in chosen terms his warmest thanks for his recent assistance.
'Never mind,' said the stranger, cutting the address very short, 'said enough--no more; smart chap that cabman--handled his fives well; but if I'd been your friend in the green jemmy-- damn me--punch his head,--'cod I would,--pig's whisper-- pieman too,--no gammon.'
This coherent speech was interrupted by the entrance of the Rochester coachman, to announce that 'the Commodore' was on the point of starting.
'Commodore!' said the stranger, starting up, 'my coach-- place booked,--one outside--leave you to pay for the brandy- and-water,--want change for a five,--bad silver--Brummagem buttons--won't do--no go--eh?' and he shook his head most knowingly.